Talkin' Outdoors

Having arrived in the city two Octobers ago where the annual Southeastern Outdoor Press Association conference was being held, hunger pangs caused me to pull into a fast food sit-down eatery in Eufaula, Alabama.

While devouring my sandwich, a lady dressed in camo walked into the restaurant and ordered her sandwich. Since the conference I was to attend had to do with the outdoors, I suspected she was in Eufaula for the same purpose as me. I walked over, introduced myself and asked if she was there for the conference.

She nodded that she was, invited me to sit at her table. We shared our lunch together and I became acquainted with Joella Bates. Little did I know at the time that I was having lunch with a world class archer who I was to learn could do far more with bow and arrow than I could with a gun.

Last week, a press release crossed my desk about Joella Bates and what she is about to do next month. She is one of 23 archers from across the United States who was recently named to Team USA at the World Archery 3-D Championship to be held September 15-24 in Robion, France. I gave her a call to find out more about this honor she has been granted.

“I am one of only three female bare bow competitors who will shoot against competitors from 45 countries,” Bates said.

For the uninformed, the “bare bow” is no more than stick and string; there are no sighting devices and the shooter releases the arrow to the target purely by instinct.

Digging for further information, I found that Bates, who began bowhunting in 1989, has taken 80 different species of animals with her bow. Among her accolades, she has taken a wild turkey Grand Slam with her bow and has traveled to Africa where she downed what is known as the African Big Five. These include Cape buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant and she “green” hunted (using tranquilizer) on a white rhinoceros. Amazingly, she completed the African Big Five in a single safari in less than 30 days.

In addition to her prowess with her bow, she is a wildlife professional and has worked as a naturalist, wildlife officer, fisheries manager, environmental scientist, professional archer, free lance writer, speaker, archery coach/trainer.

Since July 2015, Bates has been the national training specialist for Scholastic 3-D Archery program where she travels around the country training basic and advanced instructors, having trained some 150 instructors. Recently, Bates was named assistant archery coach for Bethel University.

Bates earned her B.S. degree at University of Tennessee Martin and added a M.S. degree in Fisheries Management from Tennessee Tech University. Her expertise with the bow is not the only activity where she excels. She actually went to UTM on a rifle scholarship and was inducted in the UTM Athletic Hall of Fame for the sport of rifle.

For the competition in France, Bates said that the competition will be fierce and you have to really be on your game if you expect to win.

“The target will be set at an undetermined distance and it’s up to the shooter to gauge distance, determine where to aim, with no sighting device, and shoot two arrows, both of which will score. Eventually, competitors will work down to the top two who will vie for silver and gold medals,” she said.

Unlike in the Olympics where expenses of competitors are paid, she and other members of the World Archery team have to raise their own funds. To find out more, contact her at joellabates@gmail.com or check her out on Facebook for more information.